$2.3M available for utilities help

Published 8:41 am Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Some area households will benefit from funds to help assist with heating costs this winter.

Some area households will benefit from funds to help assist with heating costs this winter.

Covington County is set to share in a $2.3 million seven-county grant award to the Organized Community Action Program – funding that will help heat more than 500 local households.

The funding, which was announced Monday by Gov. Robert Bentley, is part of a $39.3 million award to enable 22 community action agencies throughout the state to provide temporary assistance with electric and gas bills. Priority for assistance is given to the elderly, people with disabilities and families with young children.

“Paying for high home heating bills during the winter can be a significant challenge for low-income families or elderly residents living on extremely limited budgets,” Bentley said. “This funding is intended to assist those with the greatest need.”

Residents seeking assistance must apply through their local community action agencies. Eligibility is based on income, family size and available resources. If applications are approved, payments are made directly to the utility companies on behalf of residents.

Locally, residents can apply for funding at the OCAP office on Ala. Hwy. 55 across from the county health department.

Director Liz Seay said the next application period will begin in January.

“I’m not sure exactly what day we will start taking applications,” Seay said. “I would tell people to watch the newspaper for the date.”

Seay said more than 500 local households will benefit from the grant.

“If we didn’t get this funding, we wouldn’t be able to help anyone, and we all know that there is such a great need in our community,” she said. “Just look at the number of people that turned out at the church for a free Thanksgiving dinner. The need is there.

“The fact that we will share in this money with the other counties is just wonderful,” she said.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grants as part of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The funding was made available to the state by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.